Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How to Improve Your Memory

Your brain listens to you.  Every time you say, "I'm terrible at remembering names," your brain processes your statement and responds.  Replace that comment with, "I'm working on remembering names and I'm getting better at it every day."

My good friend, Jim, is on my mind.  He is grieving the loss of his mother who passed away last night.  Jim introduced me to "memory stacking" when I enrolled in the Dale Carnegie class he instructed on March 17, 1987.  The idea is to come up with a list of pictures stacked one on top of the other in your mind and add something you want to remember to each picture.  For example, I wanted to memorize the eight Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount.  I picture the back row of the chess board and stack all eight Beatitudes.  Here's how it works:
  1. The first chess piece in the memory stack is the rook, which looks like a castle or a kingdom.  The castle is located in a poor neighborhood and needs renovation.  This mental picture helps me remember the first beatitude:  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven."
  2. The knight, or horse, is the second chess piece.  I picture a horse pulling a casket followed by a crowd that is mourning.  The rider on the horse has a big pillow on his saddle to make him more comfortable.  The second Beatitude:  "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
  3. The bishop is located in the third position.  I picture a bishop, or someone who has control over the land.  He is wearing a t-shirt that reads, "My name is Meek."  The third Beatitude: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
  4. The queen is next on my stacking list.  I picture hungry people coming to her for food and water.  The fourth Beatitude: "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied."
  5. The king has a cross on his head because he shows mercy.  The fifth Beatitude:  "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."
  6. The next bishop in the sequence represents the sixth Beatitude.  I picture this bishop standing in his field like a scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz because he has a good heart (the crazier you make your pictures, the easier it is to remember your list).  This bishop represents the sixth Beatitude:  "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
  7. The second knight is named Wes, my daughter's present we gave her for her sixteenth birthday.  I picture my daughter flashing a peace sign while riding her horse.  This helps me remember the seventh beatitude:  "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God."
  8. The last castle is similar to the first one on the list.  Both castles represent kingdoms.  I picture a bloody war waged in front of the castle to help me remember the eighth Beatitude.  The attackers are all left-handed and the victims are all right-handed representing the RIGHTeousness they are fighting for in the final Beatitude:  "Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." 
Memory stacking will help you get better at test taking.   It's easier to remember pictures than words. Practice putting word pictures together and get creative with your pictures.  Let me know how this is working and remember to tell your brain, "I'm improving my memory every day."

Thank you, Jim, for teaching me this valuable tool.  Peace be with you.  May your mother's soul rest in peace. 

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